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Antique Collectible

Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Early Volland Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls from the 1930s sold for $2,000. Photo courtesy of Theriault's
There’s something to be said for a plain, honest face. Just ask Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy. When I was a kid, these two munchkins rested on pillowcases and dawdled on toy shelves in kids' rooms all over America.

Long before Barbie made her stiff-as-a-board debut, Raggedy Ann’s soft, disarming rag doll reality was lulling youngsters off to sleep.

Her history is curled up somewhere between fact and fiction. Separating the two is not always easy and a good place to start is probably with Raggedy Ann’s creator, Johnny Gruelle.

Gruelle was an artist with a natural bent for cartooning. In 1901, he started supplying cartoons to his hometown Indianapolis newspapers. Back then newspaper photography was still new. Gruelle spent his time illustrating political cartoons, feature stories, and weather and livestock reports.

“Johnny loved to fish,” one of his colleagues said. “He’d even have the gall to show up at the office in old fishing clothes and fishing boots, draw his cartoon for the day in less than an hour then tip his fishing hat to the rest of us as he left for the day.”

Gruelle’s young daughter Marcella had a well-worn rag doll that served as the brainstorm for Raggedy Ann. In 1915, Gruelle obtained a patent for his Raggedy Ann Doll, and the Gruelle family produced the first dolls themselves. Nothing more is really known about them.

Gruelle grew more serious about Raggedy Ann as a literary character after the ill-timed death of his daughter at age 13. He started writing down tales and “Raggedy Ann Stories” followed in 1918.

The book captured the hearts of America after World War I when people were leaving the farms for the city. Seasoned values and traditions were cast off. Raggedy Ann’s image, complete with shoe-button eyes, red-triangle nose, colorful apron and mitt-hands evoked nostalgia for a down-home life.

“Raggedy Ann represented an old fashioned simplicity,” said Andrew Tabbat, author of “The Collector’s World of Raggedy Ann and Andy,” published by Gold Horse Publishing in Annapolis, Md.

“A smile that never comes off. A smile that says I love you. She is the embodiment of inner beauty. I grew up with the character and was completely charmed.”

Theriault’s March 15-16, 1997, auction in Boca Raton, Fla., featured an ensemble of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. The sale demonstrated the growing trend of diversity in antique doll collecting.

An early pair of Volland Raggedy Ann and Andy from the 1930s sold for $2,000. Another rare and seldom-seen Ann and Andy by Molly-es Doll Outfitters of Philadelphia realized $3,900. A pair of 1940s Georgene Sleep and Awake Raggedy Ann’s in original clothing with kapok stuffing sold for $1,900.

There are a number of factors involved in valuing these dolls. “Age, condition, rarity and appeal are the major points,” said Tabbat. “And if you own an old Raggedy Ann and Andy, never wash or switch the clothing. Original condition and original clothing are important.”

What about the value of homemade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls so commonly made by aunts and doting grandmas? Tabbat said these homemade models just don’t command the same interest and money as the manufactured dolls.

Q. I have my mother’s blue Willowware dishes. There is a service for eight. All are in good condition and made in Japan. Could you tell me the value, if any? Name withheld by request.

A. Willow ware has been popular since the late-18th century. This pseudo-Chinese pattern has been used by various companies throughout the years.

The original design is attributed to Thomas Minton about 1780, and Thomas Turner is said to have first produced the ware for Caughley works. The blue underglaze transfer print pattern has been in production ever since. Japanese potters have been producing willow pattern dinnerware since the late-1800s.

Blue is the most common color. You will also sometimes see mauve, black and multi-color. To accompany the ware you’ll find matching glassware, tinware and even linens.

With all dinnerware condition is really important. Chips, cracks and flaking reduce value, and the large serving pieces are generally the most valuable. An eight piece set complete with serving dishes in good condition would be worth around $300-$500.

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